Sophie Sawyers ’16
As a Government major and Education Studies minor at Bowdoin, I have been able nourish my interests in learning about the differences among and between countries, across cultures and races, communicating in different languages, and issues of equality.
Hometown: New York, New York
Major: Government and Legal Studies
Minor: Education Studies
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. I have always loved learning, I enjoy working with students, and I believe that an educated population can and will positively impact the future. I value my own education and feel lucky to have had teachers who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their content area and the schools in which they teach. As my teachers did for me, I hope that I can inspire students to love learning, and to develop and discover interest areas that excite them.
In Los Angeles, where I lived until I was 12 years old, I went to the UCLA Lab School on the University campus. When my family moved to New York City in time for me to start seventh grade, I opted to attend a private all-girls K-12 school on the Upper East Side. While I was in school predominately with girls who were white and from families similar to my own, my mom began researching the American public school system. When she brought her work home, she would talk about the inequities and inequalities that characterize much of American public education—in school resources, opportunities to succeed (whatever the definition of success), teacher retention rates, etc. In hearing her talk, I grew increasingly interested in learning about the forces at play. My first step to understanding the history and current state of American education was enrolling in Contemporary American Education 1101 in my first year at Bowdoin College.
As a Government major and Education Studies minor at Bowdoin, I have been able nourish my interests in learning about the differences among and between countries, across cultures and races, communicating in different languages, and issues of equality. My experiences with Bowdoin’s Education Department in classes like Educational Psychology, Urban Education, and an Independent Study on Multiculturalism in public school classrooms have been the most rewarding. In the course that I credit as my most impactful class at Bowdoin, Educating All Students (2203), I observed, analyzed and came to appreciate learning behaviors and classroom expectations in a Maine public school from the educator’s perspective. For one academic year, for three hours each week, I shadowed a 14-year old student from Somalia. Together we set goals that challenged her abilities. In our early days together, she sat quietly in the back of a classroom. By the spring term, she’d grown into a young teenager who regularly raised her hand with confidence. During our time together, she displayed a strong sense of self and mastery of content in subjects including math, science, English language and social studies. To see this student successfully overcome her shyness, navigate middle school and thrive academically and socially convinced me to pursue a future in Education.
Juliet Eyraud ’16
As a CS major, I’ve always wanted to examine the ways in which educators can make computer science more accessible, especially for culturally and linguistically diverse students.
Hometown: Lexington, MA
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Education Studies
I grew up in a family full of teachers. My mom was a math teacher at a local public high school and seven of my aunts and uncles were teachers as well. Thanksgiving dinners were, and still are, always replete with discussions about mayoral control failings and school budget cuts. As a student at a well-funded public school, though, I didn’t understand how public schools could be seen as failing. I was curious as to why I kept hearing about the public school crisis and why it elicited such strong emotions in my family members. So, it is, perhaps, not surprising that I came to Bowdoin with the intention of studying education in some capacity. But, in addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the educational policies I grew up hearing about, studying education at Bowdoin has also connected me to a number of opportunities to get involved in exciting educational projects both here in Maine and beyond.
During the spring of my first year, I took 1101 and through this class met a Cambodian exchange student. This student was an alumna of the Harpswell Foundation in Phnom Penh, an NGO that offers dormitories and educational enrichment programs for female university student from rural provinces. The Harpswell scholar offered a different perspective to our class discussions, and often posed questions that I would never have thought to ask: If all the students in a Maine lobstering community began to meaningfully engage in school and consider college, what would happen to the lobster industry? Why would American students choose to study at a university 3,000 miles from their home? My relationship with this Harpswell scholar led me to apply to live at the Harpswell dormitories, and as soon as classes ended, I left to teach and live among the Harpswell students in Cambodia.
My experience at the Harpswell Foundation and in a subsequent education course called Place-Based Education sparked my interest in English language education and community-based pedagogy. Since then, I have been exploring these topics through independent studies and other education classes. I have also been volunteering as a classroom assistant in English language classes for immigrants and refugees at Portland Adult Education (PAE). This position has allowed me to examine the intersection of English language education and place-based pedagogy: how these students acquire a new language and integrate into a new community. This year, I’m continuing to study these areas through an independent study, but have also incorporated computer science education. As a CS major, I’ve always wanted to examine the ways in which educators can make computer science more accessible, especially for culturally and linguistically diverse students. With the guidance of Professor Sarah Jessen and Professor Stephen Majercik, I am developing a community-based computer science curriculum that I will teach next fall to a group of adult refugees and asylum seekers at PAE.
The flexibility and enthusiasm of Education professors at Bowdoin has allowed me to not only explore a wide range of educational issues, but also examine how these issues can interact with each other. In this way, studying education has given me the opportunity to analyze the challenges of public education while simultaneously exploring solutions that could combat these issues and lead to sustainable, structural change.
Alice Wang ’15
Each student learns in their own way and because of that, each student requires different things from school.
Major: Art History
Minor: Education Studies
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
I grew up in a suburb right outside of St. Louis, Missouri and attended my neighborhood public schools until 7th grade, at which point my parents decided that private school would better address my education needs. At the time, I did not really understand why I had to start over and make new friends, but I realized that the public option did not offer me the best chances of full success. At a small secular private day school, the small class sizes and individual attention from teachers provided me with a more enriching environment that also ensured I would get support as I challenged myself.
Throughout the transition to private school, my 12-year-old self could not comprehend why the school I was familiar with, the public school, couldn’t just adapt their teaching methods to be more like the private school my parents wanted me to attend. Of course I realized in high school that the private school had an entirely different structure than the public school, as well as more resources to personalize my education. But beyond that, I now recognize that what I needed, and continue to need, from my education does not look like what anyone else needs. Each student learns in their own way and because of that, each student requires different things from school. I am incredibly fortunate that my parents were able to see that I needed something different from what public school offered, and were able to find and afford a school that met those needs.
The variety of schooling I experienced sparked a curiosity that led me to the education department my first semester at Bowdoin in my Fist-Year Seminar, The Educational Crusade, with Chuck Dorn. This course inspired me to continue thinking about education in America and in my life through an Education Studies minor. Since, I have been challenged to consider my privilege as a college student in America and examine what it means to be educated. In classes like Educating All Students and Education and the Human Condition with Doris Santoro, I turned educational philosophy and policy into plays and card games allowing my peers and me to think creatively about pedagogy. The Education Studies option best suited my interests as it allowed me to explore all facets of education – the history, the philosophy, and the practice. By embracing all angles of a topic, I feel well equipped to integrate education into my liberal arts studies at Bowdoin and into whatever education career I end up choosing.
Beyond this, being a part of the Education Department means being supported by brilliant professors and staff, who are deeply invested in helping you succeed. This department has inspired me to consider the importance of education to America and to the world. Education has the ability to help individuals and groups grapple with tough issues and challenge unjust social structures, while also providing individuals with the tools to make our society a better place. I feel it is my responsibility, as a liberally educated person, to take what I have learned and change the world for the better. I have not quite figured out what that means for me, but I know that education will play an integral part in that.
Michelle Kruk ’16
Ultimately, I have found education to be the source of my own emancipation and a tool through which others can undergo incredible journeys of self-discovery.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
I was born and raised in the Northwest side of Chicago. It wasn't until I started attending a well-funded selective-enrollment, public high school that I realized the inequity present in the Chicago Public School system. I saw the same system that allowed me to flourish and develop intellectually fail my friends from elementary school who attended neighborhood public high schools. I struggled to understand why these stark disparities in education existed and how it was that my dear city was most known for a failing public school educational system. I credit my public, Chicagoan education and the teachers along the way who served as mentors as a huge part of the reason of why I am currently attending Bowdoin College. I became inspired and driven to grasp the ailments of a system that was largely failing my peers, yet had the potential to be a place in which they could thrive.
I delayed taking an education course until my sophomore year when my schedule would finally allow it. Instantly, I fell in love with everything about education and the Education Department at Bowdoin. I decided to become an Education Studies minor partly due to the fact that I find the material interesting and largely because of Doris Santoro a professor in the Education Department. This will be my third semester in a row of being in a class with Prof. Santoro and I cannot imagine the department without her. Doris has challenged me intellectually and emotionally in thinking about education in all its complexities: urban education, teaching, the process of learning, the human condition as it relates to education, race, culture, social expectations, standardization, etc. Ultimately, I have found education to be the source of my own emancipation and a tool through which others can undergo incredible journeys of self-discovery. I hope to one day become a professor at a university or college (like Bowdoin) and create a space where education can serve my students in just as transformative of a way as it has served me.
Alexandra Alvarez ’13
The classes and content I have studied in the department have developed in me a critical, yet thoughtful, lens towards education systems and the possibilities for improvement and growth
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
I come from a family of educators. Mother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they were all involved in education in some way. And while they never pushed a degree or career in education it seems their passion has rubbed off on me. I spent a lot of time in high school mentoring youth and tutoring. I continued to do volunteer service at Bowdoin, which along with my classes in Sociology and Education Studies guided me towards the decision to minor in Education Studies and consider further job opportunities in the field post-Bowdoin.
What really confirmed my interest in education, though, was the department at Bowdoin. The professors and students of the department are extraordinary individuals. Chuck Dorn, Doris Santoro, Nancy Jennings, and Katie Byrnes are some of the unbelievable professors I have had the pleasure to interact with. The classes and content I have studied in the department have developed in me a critical, yet thoughtful, lens towards education systems and the possibilities for improvement and growth—both within me and within the large public/private/independent education system currently in place in the U.S. I hope to be a positive contribution to the field as I take what I have learned at the Education Studies Department at Bowdoin into future jobs and graduate schools.
I am currently completing an Advanced Independent Study with Doris Santoro about school governance and teacher leadership. I am also enrolled in Mindfulness in Education with Katie Byrnes. After I graduate this year I hope to work in urban schools and expose myself to further challenges facing education today while continuing to work with youth and passionate professionals.
Alumni Update: Alex is now a 3rd grade Bilingual Teacher at Viola H. Nelson School District 63 in Illinois.
Faustino Ajanel ’16
My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible.
Major: Mathematics and Education
Hometown: Los Angeles, California.
I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles and attended public schools throughout my K-12 education. Coming from a school in a low-income community, I felt overwhelmed coming to Bowdoin where there are an abundant amount of resources, small class sizes, and a wide range of areas of study.
The biggest wake-up call I had about my socioeconomic status was during an activity in the class Sociology of Education. Students were asked to form a circle, and told to step out of the circle if a statement applied to you. The professor said, “Step outside if one or both of your parents attended college.” As I looked from left to right, all my peers stepped outside the circle except me. I felt embarrassed and sad that I was the only first generation student in the class (I was also the only person of color in that class too). However, she used this activity to point out the inequalities in education and how it can impact us in moving up or down in the socioeconomic ladder. My discomfort changed to curiosity as I learned more about how inequality played in the U.S. education system.
In my first year of college, I was nervous about taking math classes at Bowdoin. I felt unprepared in taking Calculus, Computer Science or science classes. My advisor recommended me to take a Calculus with Professor Barker. Throughout the semester, I felt engaged in Calculus as Professor Barker took the time and effort in helping me learn the concepts. I realized that having a professor/teacher who is passionate about the material and offers support outside the classroom is crucial for students to succeed in math.
After Bowdoin, I will be working as a math middle school teaching assistant and getting my Massachusetts teaching license at the Boston Teacher Residency program. My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible. I hope to obtain a National Board Certification after a few years teaching in Boston. With a background in teaching in urban schools, I plan to enroll in a Doctorate program in Education Leadership, and return to Los Angeles Unified School District either as a school board member or superintendent.
Mary Frances Harris ’16
Combining theory and practice allowed me to explore concepts and discover the issues students face as learners in an academic, social, and political environment in a way I could not in my other classes.
Majors: Physics and French
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Before coming to Bowdoin, my education was that of a typical college-bound student. I attended early childhood development programs and a private elementary school before enrolling in a high-ranking, independent middle and high school. I didn’t know many students who weren’t academically motivated, and even fewer who did not have aspirations to go to college. My all-girls experience in middle and high school taught me numerous ways to be prepared for the next step, an academically rigorous college that would. I never considered how academically capable students can be even if they do not have college in their future, those for whom college isn’t the right answer. My classes in the Education department and my time spent in local classrooms helped me rethink that perspective.
My Education 1101 class is the reason I am becoming a teacher. Before I took the class as a sophomore, I had absolutely no intention of ever being in a classroom after college. It was the first time I had ever been in a public school classroom in my entire life. Having started to study the policies and intentions that govern public schools, I learned that schools are one of the most important places where kids learn to become people. I stepped into a third grade class where students were learning how to measure and starting to think critically about the world they live in. I knew I had to be in this kind of environment.
The rest of the courses I took in Education delved into the issues that teachers face every day with an emphasis on the aspect I find most interesting: how students learn. Combining theory and practice allowed me to explore concepts and discover the issues students face as learners in an academic, social, and political environment in a way I could not in my other classes. The moments I spent in American public schools inspired me to pursue a research project on the “extracurricular” lessons (responsibility, self-motivation, time management, etc.) taught in French public schools when I studied abroad in Bordeaux. I worked as a tutor at an after-school center, and I was able to use the lessons I had learned from Bowdoin to be an effective teaching by listening to my students’ needs and differentiating my teaching style in order to help them improve.
The last four years at Bowdoin have exposed me to many new forms of education—public, independent, domestic, foreign, charter— and I am excited to go on to combine these experiences as I travel to Jordan to teach physics at an American-style boarding school. I plan to return to the U.S. to obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master’s in STEM Education. During this time, I hope to continue to grow as a learner and further enhance the lessons I learned at Bowdoin.
Connor Dumont ’16
I was already convinced that I wanted to be a teacher, but I now know that I want to inspire students to love learning and math just like my teachers and professors have done for me.
Hometown: Auburn, Maine
I’ve dreamed of becoming a teacher since the first grade, so when it came to choosing what college I would attend, a strong education program was a must. Bowdoin has certainly not disappointed.
What’s great about the Bowdoin Education Department is that in order to complete my interdisciplinary major, I had to take four education courses that provided the perfect balance of theory versus practice. Even in Contemporary American Education, the introductory level course, I spent a day in a local school to observe some of the struggles that face our public schools today. In Educating All Students (Education 2203), I worked one-on-one with a 7th grade English Language Learner. I was able to make observations about how he experienced school, and it allowed me to see first-hand many of the issues and potential solutions that we learned about in class. I quickly came to realize that the most effective teachers are the ones who try to understand where each of their students come from and how each of them learn best. The final two courses were Teaching and Learning (Education 3301) and Curriculum (Education 3302). While in class, we learned a variety of teaching and classroom management techniques, and we had a number of professional development meetings with local experts in the field. As part of these courses, I worked in a 7th grade math classroom and designed an entire unit on my own – and even got to teach three of my lessons!
Throughout my time at Bowdoin, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have education professors who are both knowledgeable and supportive. They helped me find a summer job that gave me teaching experience, and equally important, for my placements, they found me schools with veteran, experienced teachers who were always excited to share their words of wisdom with me. I was already convinced that I wanted to be a teacher, but I now know that I want to inspire students to love learning and math just like my teachers and professors have done for me.
Following graduation, I plan on substitute teaching in the fall, and I then hope to return to Bowdoin in the spring to participate in the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. From there, I want to give back to the state I’ve called home all my life by becoming a middle school or high school math teacher right here in Maine.
Andi Noble ’15
On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions.
Majors: History and Spanish
Hometown: Cora, Wyoming
Prior to Bowdoin, my education experience consisted only of my rural schooling in western Wyoming. To me, my small, homogeneous local school was representative of most schools in the United States. It was the only thing I had ever known, so I never questioned it. On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions. It was those lingering questions that kept me going back and fueling my curiosity for the American education system.
The following year, I took Education 2203 (Educating All Students), which gave me the opportunity to observe and be a part of a fifth grade classroom. It was there where I was first able to see theory put into practice. Since then, I have had the great opportunity to take Education 2265 (Using the Environment to Educate), Education 3325 (Mindfulness in Education), and finally Teaching and Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302)—all of which have furthered my desire and passion to teach with their time spent in schools, engaging discussions, and preparation for a confident future in education. Each class has been unique, but each has contributed to my overall formation as a learner and as a future teacher. I especially value the local school engagement component part of my classes, as it provides a unique opportunity to witness different teaching and learning techniques and build close connections with the Maine community.
The capstone of my experience in education at Bowdoin has come through my time in Teaching Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302). This past semester, I have spent well over 40 hours in an 8th grade Social Studies classroom as an active observer and participant. The excitement I get each morning as I navigate through the bustling hallways and into the challenge of teaching in the classroom is something I can’t shake.
My time in my education classes at Bowdoin has inspired me to pursue education in other forms as well. I spent the fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina. While there, I worked as an English tutor in a trilingual school (Spanish, Italian, and English). I was grateful to have the confidence and knowledge that I gained from my education courses to be able to teach in this situation, and I have gained so much from bringing that experience home with me and expanding upon it.
These past four years have exposed me to educational experiences far beyond my own—in Maine, the United States, and beyond. I am not sure where my education path will take me next as I prepare to graduate in the spring, but I go with the guidance and preparation that has been given to me by all the amazing professors of the Education department. I know that I will keep asking questions as we work toward the answers of education in our country today, and I can’t wait!
Marcella Jimenez ’16
While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools.
Hometown: Richardson, Texas
I grew up in Richardson, TX, a city north of Dallas, and attended a public school that I started walking to with my friends when I was in second grade. It was a school embedded into the community, with sufficient resources, and a friendly staff. Around 3rd grade, my parents started talking about placing me in a private school. When I asked them why, they explained that the school’s emphasis on standardized testing, mandated by the state of Texas, was diluting my education—when I complete assignments early I filed paperwork and stapled handouts for teachers, and during free reading time I was often asked to read with students who were struggling. While I denied their criticisms of my beloved elementary school, I couldn’t help but notice the faults and flaws that abounded within the classroom. While ultimately I ended up at a private, co-ed school in Dallas, their comments and my vicarious experience of public school from my childhood friends inspired me to think critically about education: Why do some students get a better education than others? How do you quantify student success? What does critically thinking look like?
During my first year at Bowdoin, I decided to take Contemporary American Education in hope for some answers to these tough questions. However, after a few weeks of intense course readings and dynamic discussions, I found myself with more questions than answers! I quickly discovered the layers of complexity that lie beneath the surface of American education and was enthralled by the systems of inequality, that contribute to the challenges of public education, as well as the hard work of teachers and schools that point towards the promise that lies within schools. The following semester, I enrolled in Educating All Students and spent 4 hours a week working with a middle school student at Brunswick Junior High. A bright-eyed, seventh grade girl, she embodied the dichotomies and challenges we read about and discussed in class. My relationship with her enriched and complicated my understanding of how middle schoolers learn and view themselves in the classroom.
With a couple semesters of education under my belt, a professor of mine encouraged me to pursue a summer internship in the education field. With her support and counsel, I spent the summer before my junior year working as an Education Policy Research Intern at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. During my internship, I attended hearings on Capitol Hill, lobbied for early childhood education legislation, and researched important issues surrounding school equity. My research focused predominantly on disproportionality in school discipline, disparities in school funding, and the implication of Common Core for poor children and children of color. This experience served as the perfect springboard into Doris Santoro’s Urban Education course, in which I’m currently enrolled.
While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools. Although schools are not sufficient to solve for systemic inequality, they are necessary. Through my coursework and conversations with education professors, I’ve come to learn what the state of education in the U.S. looks like, as well as imagine what it could be.
Sasha Davis ’13
I found that not only did I love reading about public education, classroom experiences and pedagogy, and learning differences, but I also lit up when I was given a chance to actively participate and observe in middle school classrooms.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
I came to Bowdoin with the intention of taking some education courses, but I definitely was not totally committed to the idea of being involved in education long term after graduation. In fact, I was the classic first-year liberal arts student in my quest for a major and a pathway to a potential occupation—I went from wanting to be a doctor, to a physician’s assistant, to a lawyer, to a researcher and analyst at a think tank, and I’m probably even leaving a few of out. I took classes in all different departments until it came time for me to declare my major (Government and Legal Studies), but all during that colorful journey to my eventual decision, I was enrolled in education classes.
My Education 1101 class first captivated me in the fall semester of my freshman year. A graduate of a public magnet school in the DC Public School System, I came to Bowdoin full of opinions about public education. I thought I knew all the answers, but this class forced me to employ critical thinking and analysis skills I never even thought could be used to understand public education and the reasons why it is the way it is today. I continued on in my classes after 101 and fell in love with the on-site classroom components in the teaching courses I continued to take. I found that not only did I love reading about public education, classroom experiences and pedagogy, and learning differences, but I also lit up when I was given a chance to actively participate and observe in middle school classrooms.
It was through this seamless blend between theory and practice that I was able to identify my passion at Bowdoin. I love theory and the breakthrough moments that happen in class when I start to fully understand the concepts being discussed in lecture and seminar-style conversations, but I am truly addicted to taking that theory and applying it in middle school classrooms. Bowdoin’s education program creates a safe space for emerging teachers to not only learn the methods and practical skills of effective classroom instruction, but it also prepares them with a sound theoretical background I find necessary to being successful in a classroom.
Right now, the only plan that is for certain is that I am graduating in the spring. I am looking at and have applied to a couple of different certification and Masters in Teaching programs in New England. While my immediate future plans will be up in the air until April, I do know that I plan on returning to a city and becoming a middle school teacher in an urban school district in the near future. 13-year-old-me would have rolled her eyes and laughed if I told her now that 21-year-old-me wanted to be a middle school teacher, but I cannot imagine working with any other age group or any in any other capacity other than teaching right now.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Sasha completed her Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Smith College, and is now a 6th grade English teacher at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington DC.
June Woo ’16
Along with teaching skills and content, teaching provides an avenue for building character and ensuring that knowledge is paired with good citizenship.
English Major, Teaching Minor
Practicum placement: King Middle School, Portland 8th grade ELA
Hometown: Edmond, WA
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I can remember, but when I started tutoring I began to realize how rewarding it is to teach. I believe that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions, as teachers help students to develop the skills that they need to think for themselves, to ask questions, and to make informed decisions. And along with teaching skills and content, teaching provides an avenue for building character and ensuring that knowledge is paired with good citizenship. Through Bowdoin, I had the opportunity to pursue a career in teaching during my undergraduate studies. During the spring of my senior year, I was a student teacher at King Middle School in Portland, ME, where I worked with three sections of eighth grade English Language Arts. Working with a diverse student body in which 33% of the students are English language learners, I learned to adapt my teaching to support the students’ diverse learning needs. I hope to continue the reflective practice and reciprocal teacher-student learning that I’ve experienced during my practicum as I teach middle school ESOL in Boston next year.
Tom Read ’15
Throughout my practicum, I collaborated every day with my team of teachers and developed new curricula with the intent of giving each student as personalized a learning experience as possible.
Student Teaching Placement: Deer Isle-Stonington High School, Deer Isle, Maine
Subject Areas: Social Studies/US History
Hometown: Eastham, MA
I first began to think about a career in teaching after my sophomore year of high school. I had always been a “good” student in the sense that I achieved high grades and was very studious. That year, however, my history teacher became the first to really challenge me to embrace failure and to get out of my learning comfort zone. His approach to teaching and assessing history was far different than anything else I had encountered to that point in my life – he made me actively bring the learning to him, rather than having me be a passive agent in the classroom where he imparted knowledge of the content onto me. After taking his class, I was hooked on history with a new sense of excitement and ownership of how and what I could learn. From that point on, I began to think that becoming a history teacher would not only allow me to continue exploring a subject that I found fascinating and exciting, but more importantly it could give me the opportunity to inspire students to develop confidence as learners in the same way that my teacher did for me.
At Bowdoin, I have taken advantage of opportunities provided to develop an understanding of and skills in educational policy, philosophy, and practice in a wide range of contexts from urban to rural. I took part in two Alternative Spring Break trips focused on learning about urban education, one as a participant in New York City, and another as a trip leader in Washington, D.C. For my pre-practicum experience, I was placed in a tenth grade Civics and Government class at Falmouth High School in a suburb of Portland, Maine.
Following my graduation from Bowdoin in May of 2015, I moved to Deer Isle, Maine and worked at Deer Isle-Stonington High School as a paraprofessional until shifting into my student teaching practicum there in Spring 2016. I was able to teach two different courses in U.S. History. One of them covered traditional content, while the other was a team taught, interdisciplinary effort that was part of the high school’s offerings in their Marine Studies Pathway. Entitled “U.S. History Through the Fisheries,” the course sought to integrate skills and content knowledge of history, English, and marine trades. Throughout my practicum, I collaborated every day with my team of teachers and developed new curricula with the intent of giving each student as personalized a learning experience as possible. While I leave my student teaching experience with knowledge of how to develop better lesson plans or modified assessments, perhaps my most important take away is to remember the process of reciprocal transformation that occurs with teaching and learning. In order for learning to take place, I must first remember to ask not what I have to offer my students, but what we have to offer each other.
Dominique Wein ’15
My education classes made me realize is that my community needed excellent teachers to counteract the effects of inequality and that I wanted to be a teacher so I could show my students that they were all valuable whether they were good at “doing school” or not.
Hometown: Memphis, TN
I attended inner city public schools in Memphis through primary and secondary school whose population consisted of mostly low-income African American students. As a student in elementary school I was classified as “gifted.” Because of this I was afforded many opportunities many of my classmates were not such as extracurricular activities, summer programs, and more academic enrichment in general. My teachers viewed me as superior to my peers because they saw me as possessing some motivation that allowed me to be more academically successful than them. I saw my peers as lacking something to motivate them and so for college I was determined to leave Memphis, determined to find something better for me.
The two education classes at Bowdoin that really changed my mindset about my community and inspired me to pursue teaching were Education 1101 (Contemporary Issues in Education) and Education 2203 (Educating all Students). These classes made me realize a few things. First, these classes made me realize that I was no better than my classmates back home, I was just good at “doing “school. I was able to sit in my chair, do whatever my teacher told me, memorize facts, and follow directions without complaint. Even when I wasn’t actually learning anything my teachers saw me as the ideal student because they did not have to worry about me misbehaving. Second, I realized that my classmates didn’t just have a lack of motivation that was keeping them from succeeding. For minority students in low income areas, there are larger societal structures that work against them including attending schools with subpar facilities and resources, racism, and classism that provides unequal opportunities in the education system. The last thing my education classes made me realize is that my community needed excellent teachers to counteract the effects of inequality and that I wanted to be a teacher so I could show my students that they were all valuable whether they were good at “doing school” or not.
In the spring semester of 2015, I will be completing the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. This program will no doubt give me invaluable experiences in curriculum, planning, management, and assessing student learning that I hope to bring to my first year of teaching as a 2015 Teach for America corps member in Memphis, TN.
You can watch a video of Dominique's student teaching portfolio defense here.
Cully Brownson ’14
The structure of the courses in the Education Department spiraled to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st century classrooms.
Hometown: Napoleon, OH
Major: Mathematics and Education
Placement School: Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject Areas: High school math (algebra I, algebra II, geometry, trigonometry, probability)
Though I come from a family of educators, I did not realize the passion I had for teaching until I arrived at Bowdoin and enrolled in Contemporary American Education. I had always loved math and science, and figured I would study physics or environmental studies while at Bowdoin. After delving into a study of the major issues that historically and currently affect the educational landscape in America, I was engrossed in the philosophy, politics, successes, and failures of our education system.
Upon continuing my studies in education, I only became more inspired. I began to further reflect on the impact that countless teachers have had on my life, and my only desire was to reciprocate that feeling for future students. What proved perhaps most beneficial to me was how the students and faculty in the Education Department embodied a tremendously holistic view of teaching and learning. We never saw ourselves as distinct groups of just math teachers or just English teachers, but a group of peers with a common passion. This enabled us to focus on addressing the major challenges of education from a unique collective mindset, while contemplating our disciplines from a remarkably integrated viewpoint.
It would be difficult for me to say a single course influenced me more than another, because each one was uniquely special. The understandings I gained from Mindfulness in Education were distinct from those gained in Curriculum, just as the insights from Educational Psychology were distinct from those of Teaching and Learning. Together, the structure of the courses in the Education Department spiraled to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st century classrooms.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Cully is teaching high school mathematics at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Maryland.
Molly Porcher ’13
Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!
Hometown: Stow, MA
Placement school: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 11th grade Social studies
I’ve been interested in teaching long before I came to Bowdoin. In fact, beginning as early as middle school I envisioned myself as a teacher—I even kept notes on lessons or activities from school that I particularly enjoyed, imagining that I would one day use them in my own classroom! As someone who sincerely enjoys connecting with others and thrives off of communication, I always thought of teaching as the ideal profession. At Bowdoin, my education courses widened my perspective and challenged my assumptions; they forced me to see teaching as far more complicated and the role as teacher as far more nuanced (and difficult) than my younger self had always imagined. But my coursework also reinforced my desire to be a teacher; it expanded my reasoning for wanting to teach from a largely abstract desire to a defined understanding of what was important in the classroom and the crucial part that teachers play in shaping this learning environment. Through one class at Bowdoin, I had the opportunity to work individually with a high school student who was struggling in class and at risk of failing. Her trouble lay in transition to a new school, trouble at home, and difficulty processing in the traditional classroom environment. My experience with her reinforced the mantra that every student can learn and that individual student needs are highly important. Although she has since graduated and is taking classes at a local community college, we are still close today and see each other often, a constant reminder of why I want to teach. Now confident that I want to go on to be a teacher, Bowdoin Teacher Scholars provides an amazing opportunity that allows me to pursue my long-time goal of being a teacher while still supported by the Bowdoin community and the Bowdoin education department. Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!
ALUMNI UPDATE: Molly has recently moved to New York City following a year as an Inclusion Associate at Codman Academy in Boston.
Rachel Lopkin ’13
Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.
Hometown: South Salem, NY
Placement school: Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject area: French 2 and French 3
One of the many reasons I came to Bowdoin was for the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. The fact that I could, as an undergrad, become a certified French teacher was immensely appealing to me. Starting with ED 1101 my very first semester here, my interest in education studies only continued to grow as I learned about the vast and varied challenges of educating children. I went from simply wanting to communicate and hopefully transfer my enormous passion and enthusiasm for the French language and Francophone studies, to wanting to understand the differences and the tensions between what education should and what education does look like in America. My experience studying abroad in Paris last year only solidified this interest, as I compared and contrasted the French and American educational systems. I started to question my own definitions of education and teaching, and began to analyze my own experiences as a public school student. What does it mean to be a successful student? How do we demonstrate acquired knowledge? How do we successfully engage students with the material at hand? What is the role of a teacher, both in and beyond the walls of the classroom? And so on. As my interest in education studies grew, I knew that the only way to truly understand the issues behind these questions was to get in front of the classroom myself. I know that my experiences as a full-time student teacher at Greely will help me to answer some of these questions, but will also open up new paths of inquiry and create even bigger challenges. I look forward to tackling these challenges with the help of the Education department here at Bowdoin and of my cooperating teachers at Greely. Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After a year of teaching English in France, Rachel has returned to the States to pursue a Master's degree in policy at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Matt Bernstein ’13
A large part of my decision to come to Bowdoin was because I knew that I would have the opportunity to pursue a teaching certification as an undergraduate.
Hometown: London, England
Placement School: Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)
Subject area: 9th grade Social studies
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the great fortune to participate in a service trip to Tanzania. While there, I taught some classes at a local school and instantly fell in love with teaching. I loved being able to see, and even feel a part of, moments where students developed understanding and showed an incredible excitement for education. After this experience, I became extremely interested in becoming a teacher. A few years later, when I was looking at different colleges, I was drawn to Bowdoin’s offer of a teacher certification program. Indeed, a large part of my decision to come to Bowdoin was because I knew that I would have the opportunity to pursue a teaching certification as an undergraduate. Throughout my Bowdoin experience, I have been fortunate enough to work with students of all ages in both rural and urban schools. Each and every experience I have had has solidified and strengthened my desire to teach. The students I have worked alongside have continued to inspire me and they have shown me the great benefits of being a teacher. I have decided to participate in Bowdoin Teacher Scholars because after all my overwhelmingly positive experiences working with students, I know that I want to teach. BTS is a big part of the reason why I came to Bowdoin and, although I’ve changed a lot since I was 15, I still love the moments where I can see a student learning and enjoying their education. In my opinion, BTS is a way for me to see more of those moments and a great opportunity for me to develop the skills I need to make those moments happen more often in my future classrooms.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After a year at an expeditionary learning school in Rhode Island, Matt has returned to Casco Bay HS as a 9th grade Social Studies teacher.
Zoe Eiber ’13
It was always a worry of mine that if I committed too much to education at an undergraduate level, I would shut the door on other opportunities, but at Bowdoin, it’s possible to do it all.
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Placement School: King Middle School (Portland)
Subject Area: 7th/8th grade Spanish
I first became interested in education when working for Breakthrough Collaborative in high school. Through my work with the program, I decided that I loved teaching, but when I came to college, I hadn’t intended on taking any education classes. I thought that going to college to “become a teacher” seemed far too vocational for my indecisive nature and I liked the idea of not being holed into a particular subject. However, I fell into Education 1101 my freshman spring and it quickly became one of my favorite classes.
I liked the idea of continuing with education and being able to relate my experiences to a field placement. With that, I signed up for Education 2203—Educating all Students. I struggled with the decision again to sign up for 3301 and 3302—Teaching, Learning and Curriculum—but after hearing good feedback from other students, I decided to take them. It was a good decision as the discussions in class, combined with my experience in my placement, solidified my desire to teach. With all of these great experiences in the department, I had no hesitation in signing up for the Mindfulness in Education class next semester.
One of the great things about the education department at Bowdoin is that I still had the opportunity to get my ‘liberal arts education.’ I was still able to complete a major, take many other classes and even study abroad. It was always a worry of mine that if I committed too much to education at an undergraduate level, I would shut the door on other opportunities, but at Bowdoin, it’s possible to do it all.
I’m so glad that I’ve had these experiences with the education department. Although it can sometimes be frustrating to wrestle with the issues in education, I like the idea that there is never a clear answer—and it seems to match the type of work that education involves. Working with people is ever changing and can be subjective. I like the holistic approach that the department takes to teaching educational ideas and that we are able to gain a hands-on understanding of the successes and challenges while in our placements.
Though I’m not sure what my next step is, I am currently exploring several different avenues, all of which involve teaching in some capacity.
ALUMNI UPDATE: After completing student teaching at King Middle School as part of the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Spring 2014 cohort, Zoe is teaching Spanish at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, Maine.